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The Multiple Languages of Hobson-Jobson

The Multiple Languages of Hobson-Jobson
170 St. George Street, room 100
Time: Nov 6th, 4:00 pm End: Nov 6th, 6:00 pm
Interest Categories: Spanish & Portuguese (FAS), South Asian, Slavic Studies (FAS), Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations (FAS), Linguistics (FAS), Language Studies (UTM), Italian Studies (FAS), German (FAS), French and Linguistics (UTSC), French (FAS), English and Drama (UTM), English (UTSC), English (FAS), East Asian Studies (FAS), Critical Theory, Comparative Literature (FAS), Communications, Communication, Culture, Information and Technology (UTM), Book History/Print Culture, 1800-1900
Talk by Kate Teltscher, Roehampton University London

The Jackman Humanities Institute Program for the Arts on Translation and the Multiplicity of Languages is pleased to present:

Kate Teltscher, Roehampton University

The Multiple Languages of Hobson-Jobson


A .C. Burnell and Henry Yule’s Hobson-Jobson (1886) is a glossary unlike any other.  A work of unparalleled scope and ambition, the lexicon documents the passage of words from Arabic, Persian, Indian, Chinese and European languages into English - and back again. The glosses, sometimes miniature essays in themselves, amount to an encyclopaedic account of British India. Published at the height of British imperial power, Hobson-Jobson offers us a unique way to understand the multilingual exchanges of the colonial world.

In tracing the etymologies of words, Burnell and Yule fashion a history of the cultural interaction  between Asia and Europe.  The biographies of words reveal the routes of migration, trade and conquest.  Located in the contact zone between cultures, Hobson-Jobson was the first lexicon to record both Indian English and
‘Anglo-Indian’, the English spoken by the British in India. With a playful relish for cross-cultural mistakes, the glossary identifies the ‘striving after meaning’ of sound association in folk etymology. Burnell and Yule delight in puns, rhymes and hybrid terms.  The mutual appropriations and transformations suggest the manner in which colonial cultures were constituted  through translation.

Hobson-Jobson is arranged on similar historical principles to the New English Dictionary (later renamed the Oxford English Dictionary), and dates the entry of words of Asian origin into English through textual quotation.  With its citation of writers such as Shakespeare, Milton, Dryden and Pope, the glossary encourages us to read Asia back into the English literary canon. The proofs of Hobson-Jobson were sent to the editor of the N.E.D. and many of Hobson-Jobson’s definitions and quotations went straight into the dictionary. The admission of words of Asian origin into the national lexicon is a striking example of the manner in which India remade British culture.

Kate Teltscher is currently  Reader in English Literature, School of Arts, Roehampton University, London.  Educated at the University of York, England and Oxford University (D. Phil) she is specialises on the literatures of the colonial encounter with India.  Her books include India Inscribed: European and British Writing on India, 1600-1800 Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1995 and The High  Road  to  China:  George  Bogle,  the  Panchen  Lama  and  the  First  British Expedition to Tibet London: Bloomsbury, 2006; New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007; Evanston, Il.: Northwestern University Press, 2008. The latter was short-listed for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Biography in 2006. Her forthcoming book (2013) is an annotated edition of H. Yule and A.C.  Burnell,  eds.,  Hobson-Jobson:  The  Definitive  Glossary  of  British  India, Oxford: Oxford University Press. She is also a regular reviewer for The Guardian, Times Literary Supplement, American Historical Review, Historically Speaking, Essays in Criticism, Interventions, Journal of the History of Ideas, Media History, Studies in Travel Writing, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, The International History Review and H-Net Reviews.

This event is free and open to the public.  For further information, please contact the organizer, Professor Srilata Raman, or the Jackman Humanities Institute at (416) 946-0314.


Event co-sponsors:

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